News Release 

FBI awards UTEP professor grant to study interview methods

University of Texas at El Paso

Grant Announcement

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IMAGE: The FBI recently awarded a $144,000 grant to The University of Texas at El Paso's Misty Duke, Ph.D., to conduct a unique one-year examination into the effectiveness of two different... view more 

Credit: Courtesy of Misty Duke

EL PASO, Texas - The FBI recently awarded The University of Texas at El Paso's Misty Duke, Ph.D., a grant to examine the effectiveness of two different methods to conduct investigative and intelligence interviews.

Duke, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, said few studies have systematically evaluated how uncooperative interviewees decide about their level of cooperation. She said her research will offer insights into the best ways to conduct investigative and intelligence interviews that could lead to the collection of as much accurate and relevant information as possible under various conditions.

Her study will focus on "Strategic Use of Evidence-Confrontation" and "We Know All" interview approaches. Both strategies try to convince the interviewee that the interviewer initially has some or all of the relevant information. Prior research has shown that these techniques generate more useful information than other methods. Duke said she will test procedures within each method to learn which are the most effective and whether any combination of those procedures could be more effective.

The study is funded with a $144,000 grant from the FBI's High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, with which Duke has worked in the past. This group funds research that directly benefits interrogators who have been involved in high-profile cases nationally and internationally.

"I'm excited about the prospect of applying decision science to understand interviewee decision-making, which is a relatively new treatment of the topic," Duke said.

The professor said she would recruit UTEP students and community members to play the roles of participants in a fictional terrorist plot. Researchers will interview the actors about their activities in three ways. They may use no tactics from either interview method, tactics from one interview method, or tactics from both interview methods. The actors will be given incentives to offer additional details.

Duke said she would hire two UTEP criminal justice graduate students to assist her part-time on this project. Undergraduate students will help with data collection.

In the end, her research team will measure the number of times the actors shared critical and noncritical details related to their activities. They also will create statistical models to explain how those interviewed made their decisions based on their uncertainty of what the interviewer knew.

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The University of Texas at El Paso is one of the largest and most successful Hispanic-serving institutions in the country, with a student body that is over 80% Hispanic. It enrolls nearly 25,000 students in 166 bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in 10 colleges and schools. With more than $100 million in total annual research expenditures, UTEP is ranked in the top 5% of research institutions nationally and fifth in Texas for federal research expenditures at public universities.

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